Saturday, 12 November 2022 — The van says…
It is soldiers such as these that have Russia’s future in their sights
As a sequel to yesterday’s article concerning the state of affairs regarding the Russian withdrawal from Kherson, today we will be examine how Russian efforts will get the Military Operation in the Ukraine back on track.
A Fresh Plan
As with any person starting in a new job, Surovikin needs to not only implement his own plans, but to rectify any issues that may have been left by his predecessors. This is precisely why he ordered the withdrawal from Kherson and will likely make other abrupt changes in order that they fit in to where he wants affairs to go. His experience in Syria will serve him well, yet a different kind of war is evolving fast; rather than playing set-piece maneuvers as was Soviet doctrine for decades, a new form of war requires a dynamic and alternative approach.
The Guerrilla Gambit
Despite the number of alleged ‘mercenaries’ that have somehow turned up in the Ukraine, the casualties that are being incurred upon Kiev’s troops cannot continue forever. The time is rapidly approaching when the massed assaults that have come to typify Ukrainian operations will have to end. New bodies may have appeared in theater, yet when they too return in body bags, public opinion will reach the point where even the staunchest ally of Kiev will order a halt. To that end, as promised by the US before this war began, guerrilla warfare will become the modus operandum of Ukrainian operations. Anything from commando-style raids to suicide bombers will become commonplace, these smaller and cheaper raids suiting both the aims and the pockets of those running this conflict.
Overwhelming to Overcome
One of the persistent criticisms of Russian policy to date is that operations have been wide-ranging, yet for the most part not intensive enough to get the job done. Whilst nothing has yet been said by Surovikin or any of the high command in Moscow, decisive results are needed sooner rather than later. Russia has undoubtedly attained a number of its objectives, yet many now feel rather than pushing in all directions for little real progress, a series of concerted efforts to get the victories it wants will yield better results than an effective stalemate in so many areas. An excellent example of the shortfalls concerning this strategy happened in South Africa in 1879.
Many have watched the film Zulu starring Michael Caine, this documenting how a contingent of a little over a hundred men repelled and eventually defeated a Zulu force numbering over three thousand men. Although for the most part the Zulus were armed with spears and not rifles, Zulu warrior Dabulamanzi kaMpande chose to attack the mission station through several small piecemeal attacks rather than overwhelming the largely British contingent in a huge wave attack. This ended in a triumph for British and an ignominious defeat for the Zulus.
This is a world away from the situation we see in the Ukraine today, yet the basic military philosophy remains the same. Whether the winter will cause a shift in tactics remains to be seen, yet in spite of Moscow being in no hurry, there is good reason to see notable successes before spring.
Repeated criticism has been aired due to the fact that Ukrainian forces are still able to shell Donetsk as well as the lines in Bakhmut being almost static. What most fail to realize is that conventional artillery is effective to at least twenty five miles, and until Zelenskiy’s forces have been pushed even farther than that, attacks against the city will continue. This however is no excuse for there not having been more effort made to ensure that guns and grunts are either destroyed or displaced.
With Surovikin now largely having the issue of Kherson resolved and he being able to employ resources elsewhere, one would hope that Russian and local forces in Donetsk will be able to forge forward, the elimination of Ukrainian forces in the region making the Donbass a safer place, this paving the way for the evacuees seen earlier this year to return.
Dying to Fight
So many have jumped onto their soapboxes to bemoan Russia’s retreat from Kherson, but very few realize that this was done to save lives. Someone of Surovikin’s caliber is not going to make a move such as this so soon after taking command without having an exceptionally good reason for doing so. This is what makes Russian and Ukrainian tactical decisions so different. Russia needs to fight, yet the survival of Russia need not be at the expense of slaughtering its people in the manner that this is happening in the Ukraine. Quite what the demographic lines in Kiev will show after this all ends has yet to be seen, but it only plays in Moscow’s favor if Ukrainians and foreigners alike are sent on a one-way trip to the frontline.
A Variant of Vietnam
When looking at issues such as these, it is always relevant to examine similar events in the past. The Vietnam war was lost in Washington as much as it was won in Asia, the weight of body bags finally tipping the balance against the American war machine. Times have changed, and as more Ukrainians die for their government as well as ‘mercenaries’ going home dead, the western public will become even more conscious of this conflict than they already are.
The Financial Balance
For all the headlines and photos that are spread across cyberspace, hostility will continue for as long as the West and Kiev have blood and money to throw at the conflict. This point has been missed by so many who comment on the hostilities, yet there is more to this than meets they eye.
The last year has seen the collective West clear out its cupboards as well as its bank accounts to fund Ukrainian efforts. That assistance has worked to a degree, yet the consequences of this are only now being felt. As an example, European nations were able to fill gas reserves before Brussels forced them to sever from their principal supplier, yet looking ahead to next fall, it is presently unknown how quantities such as these can again be obtained.
Food for Thought
With the effects of a recession compounding those of a war, the prices of food as well as basic necessities in the Western world are going north at the same time as industries are going south. When we then factor in the mass of cheap labor coming from Eastern Europe, the worst for the West is yet to come. Whether these factors could eventually cause a depression rather than a recession is still debatable, yet it may be public pressure rather than political powerplay that redresses the situation.
Another Vietnam Variant
As mentioned, it was public opinion as much as military failure that ended the Vietnam War for Washington, and as the Western public wakes up to not only the politics but also the pain that current affairs are causing, we may well see increasing demonstrations in European cities. As magnanimous as the West has been over the past year, national and supranational leaders simply cannot continue lending, loaning and lavishing billions on Kiev when so many of their own people are fighting poverty. The demonstrations by the Gilets Jaunes in France were largely kept out of the public eye, but should similar disturbances be seen across Europe, the media will not be able to keep a lid on widespread discontent. People power may today be seen as something of a oddity, but as more feel the pinch, it may be the population that finally put the squeeze on their leaders.
Turning the Corner
With Moscow deciding to leave Kherson, it has in a sense led the way in responding to the circumstances of a very trying global scenario. By turning the corner and following a new path, the Kremlin is adapting to a fluid situation both in and out of the Ukraine. Many were quick to criticize this move, yet the Russians have seen that by changing course, a new direction offers new prospects for the overall operation. In contrast, the Western world has set itself upon a path whereby any change of course is in itself a failure. Should leaders back down or change their stance vis-à-vis Moscow, it signifies to a greater or lesser degree a compromise, the shifting sands of a situation forcing the previously immovable West to conform to a new global order.
Talking of Treaties
There have been several rumors circulating of late indicating some form of preliminary agreement between Moscow and Washington regarding a truce or settlement regarding the current war. None of these stories have in any way been substantiated, yet one day peace will again reign in the region, diplomatic maneuvers having to be considered.
This matter is very difficult to examine for two very good reasons. One is that in such a dynamic and unstable situation, demands and guarantees are likely to change day by day as well as the fact that neither Kiev nor its masters in the West can in any way be trusted. Volumes could be written about the possibilities and prospects, yet against the backdrop of a complete denial of the Minsk Protocols by Kiev, endless support from its Western backers and policies that rely on the defeat of Russia, it is utterly pointless speculating about the mights and maybes of any future agreement. We can obviously expect the Kremlin’s expectations to broadly mirror the security guarantees that it proposed prior to the war, yet treaties signed by the treacherous are simply not worth the paper they are written on.
With so many factors and variables in play, tying this all together is almost as much a challenge as solving the difficulties that lie ahead.
After being given command, the new general is steering the operation on a new course, and in spite of comments to the contrary, his first move has been a sharp turn rather than a u-turn. A fluid conflict is best managed in a dynamic manner, this now being practiced by East and West alike.
In that very vein, this conflict will differ from the wars of before, contrasting military doctrines being the key to eventual success. At the same time as the Ukrainians will have to forget great advances in favor of guerrilla attacks, the whole operation from a Russian perspective may hinge on the use of overwhelming force.
The West may find that the apparently limitless money and lives do in time run out, and when they do, so will western hopes of this conflict concluding in a manner beneficial to the West or detrimental to the Kremlin’s objectives. Moreover, the patience of the western people may also run out, the effects of distant wars being sorely felt at home.
As regards a cessation of hostilities, the White House is definitely attempting to push Zelenskiy towards some form of agreement, perhaps Washington also understanding that the effects of the conflict are resulting in undesired consequences stateside. As mentioned however, neither Zelenskiy nor his masters ought to be trusted, their scripts and signatures giving no faith whatsoever in their faith or honesty.
After a crucial decision that proves that Russia puts blood above bravado, Moscow and its men now have to leave past events behind and step forward, constant changes now to be expected if they are to stay on course. Time and tide wait for no man; Russia does need to move faster in certain areas, but impending economic woes caused both in Eastern Europe and elsewhere are even more pressing for the West.
Putin, Surovikin and Russia must now prove whether they can turn the tide and ensure that the history books write that this will be Russia’s time…